One of the quintessential facial hair stylings is known as the handlebar mustache. A handlebar mustache is a full mustache with extended length past the wearer's lip line. If the ends of a full mustache are allowed to droop, the style may be considered more of a Fu Manchu, but through the use of pomades such as mustache wax, the wearer can stiffen and curl the ends to create a true handlebar mustache.
The idea is that the stylized and extended ends of the mustache resemble the handlebars of a bicycle or motorcycle. The handlebar style has been popular for centuries, but perhaps reached its highest level of public acceptance during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, coinciding with the Victorian and especially Edwardian eras. A properly groomed gentleman with facial hair would routinely ask his barber to create a curved handlebar mustache with the use of a stiffening agent.
In modern times, the sporting of a handlebar mustache is often viewed as anachronistic, or only something a member of a barbershop quartet would wear. The style immediately hearkens back to the turn-of-the-century days of elaborate facial hair, such as mutton chops and wavy handlebar mustaches. During the 1970s, however, the handlebar mustache made somewhat of a comeback when several prominent athletes, most notably baseball player Rollie Fingers, began sporting stylized mustaches for mainly promotional reasons.
The surrealistic artist Salvador Dali also wore a distinctive handlebar mustache which he frequently formed into long thin curls attached to his face with mustache wax. In popular culture, the villain of an Old West melodrama is often shown twirling his fingers through an exaggerated mustache as he discusses his evil plans for the damsel in distress. Many motorcycle enthusiasts also choose to grow mustaches as a somewhat rebellious facial hair statement, although some prefer to grow a more protective walrus mustache or a more sinister looking Fu Manchu.
There is an entire subculture which embraces and perpetuates the often misunderstood practice of stylized facial hair, including side burns, beards and mustaches. From mutton chops to Fu Manchus, group members carefully grow, groom and shave their facial hair into established styles or even very complex variations held together with mustache wax and other stiffening agents.